City of Light 2.0 has been collecting demographical data via our survey (fill it out here if you haven't yet) about current internet service options for WNY residences and businesses, as well as information about what everyone needs for an improved "internet experience", for several weeks now. But why?
As we've been plugging away and getting city and county officials on board with the idea of a locally-controlled network and slowly expanding our own base of knowledge on the subject, we've been mindful to explore not only what we think would be the way to update WNY's infrastructure and options but also what you tell us that you need. To start the dialog and gather data as quickly, and hopefully accurately, we started the surveys.
In order to determine what questions we needed to ask we took a look at what other cities in the country have been doing on their journeys to solving this very same problem. For example, the City of Seattle contracted with CTC Technology & Energy to study the viability of a broadband utility or other municipal network options. Within the past several months, CTC finished their work and released their findings.
We decided that emulating some of the work done by CTC would be a good idea to get good market data about what residents of Buffalo and Erie County think about their current service, where there is true interest for better service and in which neighborhoods there is a need for better broadband. One exciting way to look at it is that we're constructing Buffalo's own "fiberhoods" (hopefully Google doesn't mind us borrowing the term). That's one essential piece of this puzzle that we're trying to put together.
Beyond that, any community that wants to develop their fiber infrastructure and bring "fiber to the home" (FTTH) to their region has to map out not only where there is interest in FTTH, but also other things -- lots of other things. By this we mean that communities must become aware of not only where there is demand, including where folks would want a different provider other than the one or two available, but of where there are other assets including:
- existing gas and electric lines
- telecomm conduit
- traffic signal inner-connect
- abandoned water mains
- abandoned sewers
- telephone poles
- street light conduit
- where there are anchor institutions that may wired early on
And also assets more directly related to putting down fiber connections themselves:
- where there are plans for street resurfacing
- sidewalk repairs
- underground public works projects
- scheduled permits for contractors/telecomm companies.
Once we have all this information, we'll have the best picture and sense of where fiber needs to be laid down, where it will be most cost efficient, and just an overall great sense of what will need to be done to have a network that will stand the test of time.
It's worth knowing that we're not only collecting address data, your thoughts about your current service and what you'd like to see, but we're also collecting data from the city and the county. When we have enough data we can share these maps with county/city officials and/or consultants hired by them so they can use it to inform their decision-making and build a network that really has a good shot at being truly viable. Or, if they don't do anything with it, we could even start doing it ourselves as a community.
Since posting our survey originally, we happily received over 50 in a few hours, with responses coming in steadily each week. (That's not too bad for a Friday afternoon release, huh?) We're starting to get a picture of what the market looks like. But we'll still need to receive many more responses before we're satisfied with what we have. *hint hint hint*
To help this project along, we started canvassing neighborhoods in person, too! Hopefully when we reach your block you'll have the time to help us out and take a few minutes to chat about your concerns and give us some information about what you need and would like to see. From there we'll also learn where there are serious gaps in service and folks who have no access at all (it's really striking to note the lack of affordable broadband access in some neighborhoods, e.g. the Fruit Belt).
So if you hear a ring at your doorbell (those still exist?) please remember that we're here to try to bring more competition to Buffalo and Erie County's broadband landscape, to bring you faster speeds, cheaper prices, and better all-around service. And if you haven't filled out the survey online, most definitely do that! Please?
Here's an even bigger link in case you missed the last two:
City of Light2.com/Survey
And as always, we're looking for help with all this stuff. Don't worry if you don't think you have the requisite skills. We can put pretty much anyone to work - there are lots of different tasks to accomplish!
P.S. Yes, we still have Part 3 of our Buffalo Connect analysis on the radar. But this survey and mapping plan is our main priority right now. And well all have day jobs. So your patience is appreciated. :D